The winter linseed is looking good and is now growing away nicely. Which is more than I can say for the oilseed rape. It all started badly back in August, with bone dry seedbeds. We eventually drilled it after some rain over the bank holiday. Direct drilling into the little moisture that was there should do the trick, I thought. However, the soil, in particular anything heavier than gravel, just did not have sufficient moisture even to allow germination in parts. Where the seed did struggle to come through, the continuing lack of rain in September caused the crop to grow really slowly. Then the flea beetle came in and exasperated this further. As a result most farms here abouts have some very patchy crops. The larvae in the stems has added to the pressure on the plants. In total, we have lost about 20% of our crop. There are fields around here that once looked OK, that have latterly started to die due to the larvae and are now still being ripped up.
This all looks bad for the continuation of rape in our rotation going forward. A few years ago I made myself a spreadsheet that allows me to compare different rotations and their effect on farm profitability. At the touch of the mouse I can change production costs, yield and price. The upshot is, that when you put in the likely average yield for rape, allowing for continued flea beetle problems, it’s got to go. Both winter linseed and spring oats increase the overall margin even if I use very conservative yields. This exercise is always ongoing and the next crop that will have to be scrutinised over the coming winter will be barley. Can I grow it without chlorothalonil now the fungus ramularia is resistant to every other fungicide we currently have?
There are unintended consequences to all of these decisions to restrict pesticides, that politicians and environmentalists fail to grasp. For example, the loss of neonicotinoid seed dressings in rape will lead to fewer flowers for bees to feed on as the oilseed rape area plummets. The same ban on none flowering crops will in turn lead to more widespread spraying of broad spectrum insecticides this autumn in an effort to control aphids. This will be to the detriment of all the beneficial insects. It makes you wonder. Still, back to the day job. There is plenty to do at this time of year.